Notes: A's likely to open '08 in Japan
Oakland to tweak spring schedule for opener vs. Boston
OAKLAND -- All signs are pointing toward the A's opening the 2008 season in Japan against the American League champion Red Sox, so it's likely that Oakland's pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training several days earlier than normal.
The opening series, tentatively scheduled for March 22-23 at the Tokyo Dome, is expected to be formalized at the owners' meetings in Florida, Nov. 14-15.
"It's all speculative at this point, so we haven't really started planning anything," A's assistant general manager David Forst said Friday. "And we can't get started too early, because it's not like we can start playing [Cactus League] games any earlier. But yeah, the pitchers will need some extra time.
"So, if we typically bring them in on [February] 14th or 15th, they'd probably come in the ninth or 10th, something like that."
Manager Bob Geren said he recently spoke with traveling secretary Mickey Morabito, who hadn't heard anything definitive regarding the potential trip, but Geren doesn't think changing his club's spring schedule would pose any major problems.
"The starting pitchers would be the guys you really need to look at as far as making everything work," said the skipper. "But really, you just look at the departure date, and what starters we'd have working those two games over there, and just go backwards to make sure they get the same amount of work in that they'd get for a regular start.
"And really, it'd kind of be a little bit of an advantage, because the two guys you start over there could come right back and be rested and ready to start again for the first two games over here."
Forst said the team would leave their Spring Training home in Phoenix for good on March 19 if the plan goes through. After arriving in Japan, the A's would play two exhibition games against Japanese League teams before opening the regular season against the Red Sox, then return to the Bay Area for the annual preseason Bay Bridge Series against the Giants.
A similar plan had the A's scheduled to open the 2003 season in Japan against the Mariners, but the war in Iraq forced the cancellation of the series.
"That was a big disappointment," said Braves righty Tim Hudson, who was scheduled to pitch for Oakland in one of the 2003 games in Japan. "I understand why they [cancelled] it, but everyone was pretty jacked up about going."
Current A's players have said they'd love to take part in the 2008 series, despite concerns about jet-lag and the tweaked schedule it would bring.
"I don't really see any negatives, except that we'll be playing the Red Sox," outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher said. "There won't be a single person in the stands rooting for us, but that's all right. It's still something we'll always remember."
The Red Sox pitching staff features right starter Daisuke Matsuzaka, who led Japan to the inaugural World Baseball Classic title in 2006, and countryman Hideki Okajima, who hasn't allowed an earned run out of Boston's bullpen in 9 2/3 innings of postseason action.
Speedy turnover: Less than three weeks after informing three members of the 2007 coaching staff that their contracts would not be renewed, Geren's staff for 2008 was finalized.
"I couldn't be happier with the way it's worked out," Geren said. "I really like the guys we're bringing in. I'm very familiar with all of them, and we're excited to get to work."
Tony DeFrancesco, who spent the past five seasons as Geren's successor as manager at Triple-A Sacamento, was hired Thursday as the new third-base coach. The new bullpen coach is Ron Romanick, Oakland's longtime roving Minor League pitching instructor, and the new bench coach and Spring Training coordinator is Don Wakamatsu, who spent the past five years with the Rangers, including four years as bench coach.
"The Oakland A's have always been, in my opinion, the best organization in baseball, and to be able to promote a couple of guys within the system is great," Geren said. "And Don, who's so familiar with the American League West and has been a bench coach in the division, is a great addition, too."
Dribblers ... Righty James Simmons, Oakland's top pick in June's First-Year Player Draft, pitched a scoreless inning for the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League on Monday. Through Thursday, Simmons had made three appearances and has allowed a run on three hits and a walk while striking out five. ... Righty reliever Jeff Gray, who spent most of the 2007 season at Sacramento, had appeared in six games with the Desert Dogs, allowing five runs over 7 1/3 innings (6.14 ERA) while giving up nine hits (two homers) and four walks with seven strikeouts. ... Shortstop prospect Cliff Pennington, through Thursday, was batting .120 (3-for-25) for the Desert Dogs, while outfielder Jeff Baisley was batting .238 (10-for-42) with two homers, two doubles and a team-high 12 RBIs in 12 games.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.